Sunday, September 12, 2010

Christmas in September!

I hate to admit it, but Summer is at an end. Well, as far as the whole "break from school" thing goes, at least. Truth be told, our garden (and most local produce markets) will go on embracing the calander year's Summer season as long as it lasts, if not longer - yielding bushels of tomatoes, peppers, beans and eggplant at the very least, and (for me, at least) sweet, crunchy beets and carrots too. With the root veggies, it's almost not even worth pulling them mid-season (as tempting as it might be) since with the cooler weather comes sweeter roots, and even better crunch!

We've been lucky this year too. Like I mentioned both yesterday and a week ago, we're in the throes of the "overflowing garden" era, especially when it comes to things like the tomatoes, peppers and rhubarb. It wouldn't be a problem, until you realize that every pepper plant we've grown is a hot variety (the mildest ones we have are cherry peppers, ranging up to bird's eyes!) and neither my stepbrother nor stepfather can stomach the capsaicin. Or that every tomato plant we have is giving us their all... all at once. And of course, I don't need to tell you about the whiles of rhubarb. Rhubarb just is... rhubarb!

So needless to say I've fallen into a "use up all the stuff" rut. I can't bear to let the delicious tomatoes go to waste, so what I just can't eat au naturel I've jammed into sauce upon sauce for mid-winter nosh. The last time I wandered into the garden was right after a fairly violent windstorm, which knocked off a good portion of fruit from the plants - including a fair amount of unripe tomatoes. Well, green tomatoes I can deal with! Especially since I was due to make my yearly mincemeat anyway, allowing it a good few months to mellow in it's boozy sauce before pie-time came knocking in December. Along with a big freezer bag of rhubarb, the veggies made for a perfect, tangy "filler" in the mixture, and soaked up the molasses, honey and rum like sponges to water. Unlike last year and the year before, I was able to can the mincemeat in my waterbath canner so I could shove it into the depths of my pantry instead of fighting for space in the overflowing freezer. Adding dried apricots, dates, currants and craisins added a wide variety of flavour and texture notes too, which all kept their individuality at the same time as melding into the whole mixture. I think this Christmas will be a merry one indeed! 

Summer Season's Mincemeat
Makes about 10 cups, enough for 3 pies and a few tarts
3 large apples, diced
2 lbs chopped rhubarb
3.5 oz green (unripe) cherry tomatoes, halved
juice and zest of one orange
juice and zest of one lemon
1 cup Demerara sugar
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup molasses
1 1/2 cups raisins
6 oz dried apricots, diced
3 oz prunes (about 12)
4.6 oz diced dates
3.8 oz dried cranberries
4 oz currants
1/2 cup rum
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tbsp allspice
1/4 tsp cayenne
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tbsp cinnamon
1 tbsp fresh-grated ginger
  1. Combine all ingredients in a large pot. Cover, and cook over low heat for 3 hours.
  2. Ladle into sterilized jars, leaving 1/2" space.
  3. Process for 20 minutes in a water-bath canner. Alternatively freeze up to 1 year.
Amount Per Cup
Calories: 478.3
Total Fat: 1.3 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 22.3 mg
Total Carbs: 123.9 g
Dietary Fiber: 10.7 g
Protein: 3.5 g

1 comment :

  1. You're right -- Summer is coming to a close :( Awesome post! Mincemeat is definitely one of those savoury dishes that reminds me of Christmas!


Thanks for the feedback!